Week 35 in the year of our Lord 2022

Pornography is to sex as Zoom is to worship, and other exhortations about the Christian life

14 minutes to read

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A boy gets to be a man when a man is needed. Remember this thing. I have known boys forty years old because there was no need for a man. —John Steinbeck

The difference between the old and the new education being, in a word, the old was a kind of propagation—men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.
― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man


Pornography is to sex as Zoom is to worship #

As porn does with the marriage bed, digital fellowship does with the church: cultivates an unreal and unrealistic view of what God made it to be, and to do.

Online church and other forms of internet Christianity create a kind of “church porn.” If this sounds sacrilegious or outrageous to you, remember that God draws a close analogy between whoredom and idolatry, to the point that it is the major theme of an entire book of Scripture. So this is not a comparison we make lightly or frivolously; if you detect inappropriate levity, it is not coming from our side.

Consider:

Pornography provides the user with access to sexual stimulation that costs him nothing.

There was no need for him to become a master of his environment—and, by so doing, to lay the foundations for a home suitable for a wife.

There was no need for him to wisely build the trust and tension between himself and his wife.

There was no flirting, no playful banter, no strong shoulder of comfort.

There was no learning her fears or her strengths, no awkward meals, no conversations with potential in-laws or close friends.

There weren’t any difficult arguments or differences, whereby he had to wisely lead her to a right conclusion.

There wasn’t any engagement, any wedding planning, or any honeymoon; no shared bills, no responsibilities, no children.

There is nothing.

There is no effort, no relationship.

He just grabbed his laptop or smartphone, and looked for a video of a naked women that gave him a thrill at that particular time.

It was immediate. It was cheap. It was fake.

Pornography provides us with a distorted view of women, and especially of what sex will be like in the marriage bed.

The women he lusted after weren’t “real.” They are actresses of a sort. Their responses to advances were exaggerated and unnatural. Their appearances were carefully selected and prepared. The “film-makers” know what gets clicks and what doesn’t, so they present their viewers with women who are unreal and unrealistic. Consequently, pornography creates unreal, unrealistic sexual expectations for a man.

He expects that sex will cost him little. He expects a spouse who is always ready to go—and in her physical prime.

He is not prepared for the reality of the marriage bed.

Life is hard. Consequently, no one is always ready to go. There is much work to be done, and only a finite amount of energy. Moreover, entropy and gravity will affect everyone’s body in time.

Soon such a man is unsatisfied with real sex with a real woman. It takes too much effort for too little payoff. He is used to getting a variety of “women” at the tips of his fingers, instead of getting variety with his one woman. And he grows bored.

Moreover, he is grossed out by the marks of a maturing body. He desires the perpetual beauty of time-frozen internet videos. In his delusion, he prefers what he imagines some other man has out there.

But it doesn’t exist. It isn’t real. He has been taught to love a lie and despise reality.

What does this have to do with “internet Christianity” and the local church?

Many Christians go to conferences, listen to podcasts, and download mp3s. They listen to speakers who seem superior to their local pastors—speakers who are tracking with all the hot theological trends and issues.

These men are more charismatic, funnier, and “incredible communicators.”

Many Christians are deeply involved in Facebook groups and other online forums where they “fellowship” with other Christians. They get encouragement, and work through life’s challenges in these online communities.

These groups can be curated and pruned, so they include only those who see eye-to-eye; people excited by the same theological issues, and hip to the same references.

This can and often does distort Christians’ expectations of what a local church should be like. They come to believe that every church should have a dynamic and godly pastor who is an incredible communicator. And they think that every church community should come easy, and be filled with like-minded people.

Never mind that many local pastors have small staffs and multiple sermons and lessons they must prepare in a given week—besides all the other demands of the ministry.

Never mind that the godliness of the conference speaker is exaggerated in the mind of his listeners, because they don’t see him during his bad days and weak moments. This allows them to assume that his stage persona is how he is all the time. The local pastor is not afforded this luxury. People see his kids misbehave, and have even seen him argue with his wife on a few occasions. This encourages them to idolize those who they don’t know, and despise those who they do know.

They long for a pastor who isn’t real.

The same is true for the community in the local church. They can’t simply unfriend or block annoying people. They rarely are surrounded with people that are just like them in every way, sharing all the same interests.

It takes effort to develop flesh and blood relationships with people in the local church. You have to make time to get together. You can’t just log in. Nothing is immediate, and everything takes time.

Unfortunately, local churches themselves have fallen into the porn consumer mentality of modern Christians. They no longer view the gathering of the saints in person as essential. Everything is done over Zoom. Everything is digital.

Worship itself is simply another digital product to view from the comfort of your home.

This reinforces the unrealistic religious expectations of Christians. It feeds their tacit assumption that what matters in religion is the unreal things. The things that make Christianity easy and enjoyable. The things that titillate and excite. The things that are fun but fleeting.

They are taught to love a lie and to despise reality.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many churches that closed for lockdowns have now closed permanently? If worship can be digital, why settle for the best that your own church can put on? Why not find a truly world-class church and “worship” with them instead? Livestreams cost nothing. You can be there even in another state or country. You don’t even have to dress beforehand, or talk to anyone afterward.

By contrast, the local church as God designed it is costly and awkward. It takes energy and effort. It requires us to discipline our minds and bodies; to hear and understand things that don’t immediately grab our interest; to build relationships with people who we don’t immediately feel drawn to.

But unlike porn, the local church is also real and productive.

Men, be more than consumers.

Find a real “in-person” local church. Join it. Get involved.


Christians who aren’t members of Christ’s living body aren’t Christians #

If your faith can’t get you to church on Sunday, I doubt if it will get you into heaven. — Dr. Adrian Rogers

Christians were made to be in physical local church with people who know them well enough to stimulate them to good works.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19–25)

American Christianity has a tendency to individualize everything in Scripture.

“Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Is this individual language—or corporate?

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Again, is this individual language?

No. They are corporate.

We definitely have to do these things as an individuals in order to do them corporately—there is an individualistic dimension to the corporate command, in that all communities are made up of individuals. But there is no way of getting around the communal nature of Christianity. Especially not in the final “let us” in vv. 24–25:

“….let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

There can be no denying that this command requires a community, a church. Its logic is simple: because of the wonders of the gospel, let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. God’s love for His church is an engine that drives the brethren’s love for each other. We love because He first loved us.

1 John 3:14–16 connects the same dots. It says:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

One of the greatest evidences of true conversion is a real and practical love for your fellow Christian. It is how we know that we are no longer dead. It is how we know that we have eternal life abiding in us.

The Holy Spirit takes self-centered rebels like us, humbles us before the cross of Christ, and then turns us outward towards others—namely other Christians in our local body.

This is basic Christianity.

It is God-focused and neighbor-focused, as opposed to self-focused. And that is why so many despise belonging to a local church. They are not regenerate Christians. They are not truly made God’s sons. They want life on their own terms. They say things like, “I love Jesus, but not the church,” or, “I’m spiritual but not into organized religion.”

What they are really saying is, “I don’t want people in my life unless on my own terms—and I don’t want to be obligated to be in people’s lives unless on my own terms.”

You can also be a member in a church, and still have this basic attitude working in you to varying degrees. After all, if this wasn’t the case, why would the author of Hebrews have to command us to stimulate one another to love and good works? It’s because all Christians need to be regularly exhorted to love the brethren.

Now, loving the brethren isn’t just pointing your warm and fuzzy feelings toward each other. Loving the brethren is an activity. It requires action. It moves from the internal to the external. You must actually engage with real people.

Your busyness, your “introversion,” your awkwardness doesn’t give you permission to check out. Christ died on the cross for the brethren and you must make them a priority.

What does that look like? It looks like you stimulating each other to love and good works.

Note the word stimulate.

It means to encourage interest or activity in someone. We stimulate our muscles through exercise and through exertion. We stimulate our minds the same way: by reading or doing some form of thought work like puzzles or crosswords. And while “stimulate” is mostly faithful to the Greek word being used here, it doesn’t carry the full weight.

The old ASV translation is much better. It says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.” That captures what is being commanded here. Provoke.

We are to goad, spur, prod, incite, rouse, excite, and even irritate each other to love and good works. We are to provoke each other.

In other words, this command requires us to be actively involved in each other’s lives. We cannot be passive. We cannot merely suggest this or that. We must be considering how we can provoke each other.

People don’t like this, do they? This is, in part, because of a weird and unbiblical understanding of privacy. As if your spiritual condition is only your business. In most churches there is an unspoken promise that, “I’ll stay out of your life if you’ll stay out of mine.”

Don’t-ask-don’t-tell might be U.S. army policy, but it’s not the policy of the army of the living God. To be Christian is to be actively involved in each other’s lives.

It is personal, it is messy, and it can be awkward. But it also can be wonderful.

Sometimes this stimulation will take the form of encouragement.

“Brother, I’ve noticed your son looks me in the eye when I talk to him. That is good. You are doing something right. Don’t lose heart.”

“Sister, thank you for being a wonderful host. Your home is beautiful and the pie was delicious.”

Sometimes it will take the form of rebuking each other.

“Brother, I’ve noticed you allow your son to disrespect his mother. Don’t let that happen. He needs your discipline and she needs your love.”

“Sister, I’ve noticed you are loose with your lips about things that aren’t relevant to anyone you talk to. That is gossip. That causes divisions. Don’t be a source of division.”

Matthew 18 says, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” We are commanded to lovingly correct each other.

Sometimes these rebukes, because of the severity of the sin, will require a much sharper interaction. And, make no mistake, that can be—and often is—deep love for the brethren.

Proverbs 27 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”

The point is simple: we have to be intimately involved in each others’ lives. If you have a problem with that, you have a problem with Christianity. You have a problem with God.

You need the body. The body needs you.


The dark triad is a dim reflection of the virtues that attract virtuous women #

Think of this as a seed of a thought. You may find it worth pondering if you’re into red pill psychology:

  • Narcissism = gravitas
  • Psychopathy = fear of the Lord
  • Machiavellianism = focus on mission

Related to this, here’s a prediction we made back in April 2020. What do you think—has it started to prove true, given how the “manosphere” has changed so thoroughly?

Premise: The manosphere won’t and can’t produce men.

It won’t because it lacks deep theology. It is often simplistic and anti-intellectual in its overall approach to sexuality.

It can’t because it lacks true fraternity. It buys into the modern myth that “incarnated” relationships can be replaced by electronically-mediated LDR relationships.

Men need to give themselves to the hard task of being hearers and doers of the Word: learning and applying theology. This can only be accomplished in the company of other men.


Notable: #

  • A resource that might be worth checking out if you have suffered divorce: No Less Faithful
  • The first 6 minutes of this podcast makes a pretty good case that She-Hulk is actually a covert right-wing show designed to expose the evils of feminism by making the protagonist so openly villainous: SheHulk Goes Woke, Show Gets Roasted Over Unhinged Feminist Rant - YouTube. (Sadly reality is less interesting; never ascribe to malice what can be equally explained by stupidity.)

Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

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